Glimpses of joy

It was February 13, 1970, and I had just come to pick up Jana for our first date. The moment she let me in the front door, I heard a sound coming up from the basement: “Hee, hee, hee!” 

Jana took me downstairs to meet her dad. He was lying on the floor watching TV, literally rolling on the floor in laughter. 

My first thought was that this family must be out of its mind.    

But that was Lonnie. He laughed like that all the time. He simply loved life. He got joy out of whatever he was doing.

In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul wrote that we are to “rejoice in the Lord always.” Lonnie always rejoiced because he could see God in everything. 

He rejoiced in hunting and fishing. He rejoiced in fixing his old boat. I think he actually rejoiced when it broke; so he could fix it.

He rejoiced in his wife and his family. In good times and bad, he rejoiced.

Where did he get that endless reservoir of joy?

In Colossians 3, Paul wrote, “Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above….”

Fascinating. Paul was writing to Christians who were still living, but he said, “You have been raised.”  It’s already happened.

The main purpose of the Christian faith is not for God to swoop down and take you to heaven when you die. Heaven is not an ethereal place far away where you float in a kind of disembodied existence. 

That’s not resurrection; that’s death.

When the Risen Jesus met his disciples after the resurrection he could still eat, but he could also be anywhere at once. He was somehow more real.

And he didn’t tell them to wait around until they floated off, he sent them out to make the world more beautiful and just, starting now, like he did with my father-in-law Lonnie.

Heaven is here, another dimension of reality that most of us are out of touch with, and Jesus followers live at the intersection of the two. They’ve been raised with Christ to give the world glimpses of the ultimate joy that awaits us when heaven and earth are fully joined at last. Alleluia!

Or as Lonnie would say, “Hee, hee, hee!” 

Bicycle Heaven

This week I finally made it to heaven.

“Bicycle Heaven,” that is, the part-museum, part-bicycle shop on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. Bicycle Heaven is featured in the new book, 100 Things To Do In Pittsburgh Before You Die, by Beth Geisler. With all the references to heaven and dying, I figured that I better check it out. I am a minister after all.

Oh my. If you love bikes, my guess is you will think you died and went to heaven. Walking in the door you’re met with hundreds of bikes, old and new, covering the floor, walls, and ceiling. That’s just a sample of what’s ahead. There are thousands and thousands of bikes, memorabilia of all kinds, plus mountains of bike parts and tires, all lovingly maintained and displayed. It’s overwhelming. The word that kept going through my head was “passion.” The person who made this happen had to have a passion for bikes and wanted to share it with others.

Isn’t it interesting how we speak in ultimate terms when we talk about our passion?

The thing is, followers of Jesus Christ don’t need bucket lists. The joy we experience in our favorite places here is simply a taste of the new life God has in store for us. We have an eternity to live our passions, and it begins here and now.

It seems to me the fact that people love to talk about bucket lists suggests there’s an enormous longing out there. It’s up to us in the church to be so different that people will look at us and say “I want that.” I want that peace, that contentment, that passion for caring for others. It’s up to us to show the new life that’s only available through the incarnate God of the Universe, and to give folks a glimpse of heaven on earth.